Lü Bu

Lü Bu

Three Kingdoms infobox
Name= Lü Bu

Caption=Qing Dynasty block print
Title= Minor warlord
Pinyin=Lǚ Bù
WG=Lü Pu
Lu Pu
Zi=Fèngxiān (奉先)

Lü Bu (died 198) was a military general and later minor warlord during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms era of China. According to the "Records of Three Kingdoms", Lü Bu was a master in horseback riding and archery, and was thus known as the Flying General. His image as a handsome and mighty warrior wielding a "ji" known as the "Sky Piercer" (方天畫戟) on top of his steed Red Hare was later popularized by the 14th-century historical novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". In the story, he is the single most powerful warrior in all of China, comparable to the Greek hero Achilles, though he is not completely invincible.

Besides being matchless on the battlefield, Lü Bu was also notorious for having betrayed and slain two separate masters (who were both his adoptive fathers). He was perhaps most well-known for his amorous relationship with the most likely fictional Diao Chan which led to his slaying of his adoptive father Dong Zhuo, the tyrannical warlord who held the puppet figurehead Emperor Xian in his control.

Lü Bu was eventually defeated and captured by Cao Cao in the city of Xiapi. Under Liu Bei's suggestion, Cao Cao had Lü Bu hanged.


ervices under Ding Yuan and Dong Zhuo

A local of the county of Jiuyuan in the Wuyuan Commandery (a district of present day Baotou, Inner Mongolia), Lü Bu started his career as the Chief Secretary under Bingzhou (并州) Governor Ding Yuan. In 189, Ding Yuan led his troops into Luoyang to assist General-in-Chief He Jin to eliminate the powerful eunuch faction. However, He Jin was soon assassinated and a bloody clash between the eunuchs and government officials that ensued saw the capital plunged into chaos.

Dong Zhuo, another warlord summoned into Luoyang by He Jìn, quickly established control. Under the enticement from this rising power, Lü Bu soon defected. He even severed his former master's head and brought it to Dong Zhuo as a gesture of allegiance. The duo then swore to be father and son.

To consolidate his power, Dong Zhuo placed in the throne a puppet emperor and moved the capital west to Chang'an. These acts, coupled with his tyrannical and cruel ways, angered many and the risk of assassination was high. For his personal safety, Dong Zhuo depended heavily on Lü Bu, who had by then been promoted to Knight General (中郎將). The son would be seen beside the father almost all the time.

However, in his frequent bouts of temper Dong Zhuo would hurl a halberd at Lü Bu. Although the agile Lü Bu could always duck these throws, and Dong Zhuo's fury would dissipate quickly, Lü Bu nonetheless bore a furtive displeasure against his adoptive father. Furthermore, being entrusted to guard the residence of Dong Zhuo, Lü Bu held an amorous affair with one of Dǒng Zhuò's concubines. For this he was constantly in fear of being discovered.

In 192, encouraged by Imperial Minister of the Interior Wang Yun, Lü Bu finally made up his mind to murder Dong Zhuo. Bringing along a dozen trusted men, including Cavalry Captain Li Su, Lü Bu greeted Dong Zhuo at the palace gate. When Li Su stepped up and stabbed Dong Zhuo, the warlord cried out for his son. But saying "This is an imperial order," Lü Bu delivered the final blow, skewering the tyrant like a pig.

Days of exile

After the death of Dong Zhuo, rumors spread that the court intended to execute all his former troops from Liangzhou (涼州). When a royal decree of pardon was not issued, former subjects of Dong Zhuo, Li Jue and Guo Si, staged a coup and defeated Lü Bu within ten days. Escaping from Chang'an, Lü Bu went to Yuan Shu in Yangzhou (楊州). Deterred by Lü Bu's fickleness, however, Yuan Shu declined to keep him.

Lü Bu then headed north to seek a position under Yuan Shao. Having been given some troops by the northern warlord, Lü Bu successfully flushed out the bandit army under Zhang Yan. However, with his own force growing in strength, Lü Bu was beginning to seem like a threat to Yuan Shao. Sensing this himself, Lü Bu then bid his short-term master farewell. Yuan Shao sent assassins after Lü Bu but it was for naught; Lü Bu managed to slip away.

In 194, while Cao Cao was away on a campaign against Tao Qian in Xuzhou (徐州), his subjects Zhang Miao and Chen Gong rebelled and handed Yanzhou (兗州) to Lü Bu. When Cao Cao heard the news, he quickly turned back and laid siege on Lü Bu in Puyang. After more than a hundred days of stalemate, a famine breakout forced Lü Bu to give up his position.

Occupation of Xuzhou

Thinking that by forcing Cao Cao's retreat from Xuzhou he had done Xuzhou a favor, Lü Bu then headed for Xiapi to seek refuge under Liu Bei, who was then the governor of Xuzhou. In 196, however, Lü Bu turned on his host and took over Xiapi, proclaiming himself the governor and sending Liu Bei to the nearby town of Xiaopei (小沛, present day Pei County, Anhui).

In the same year, Yuan Shu sent a force led by Ji Ling to attack Liu Bei. Fearing that the defeat of Liu Bei would expose his backdoor to Yuan Shu, Lü Bu made camp south of Xiaopei and brought Ji Ling and Liu Bei together. The Flying General then had a halberd erected at the campground gate. Urging peace between both parties, Lü Bu extracted their promises to withdraw troops if he could hit the sharp tongue of the halberd with an arrow. From afar, Lü Bu fired a shot and the missile came in squarely on its target. Awed by such mastery in archery, the two sides then held true to their words.

To ward off the expansion of Cao Cao's power, Yuan Shu then offered to ally with Lü Bu. Lü Bu initially agreed but soon regretted. He even sent men to retrieve his daughter, who was on her way to be married to Yuan Shu's son. She was the daughter of Lady Yan, Lü Bu's first wife. Lü Bu also imprisoned Yuan Shu's envoy and sent the captive to Cao Cao as a sign of friendship.

In 198, however, Lü Bu again switched his allegiance to Yuan Shu and attacked Liu Bei in Xiaopei. The defeated Liu Bei sought help from Cao Cao, who then personally led a force on Xiapi. After three months of siege and many consecutive losses, Lü Bu subjects were down in morale and defected. Lü Bu had no choice but to surrender himself, but in some versions, his subjects grew tired of his cruel ways and tied him up while he was sleeping and presented him to Cao Cao.

Tightly bound and brought before Cao Cao, Lü Bu pledged his service. However, being reminded by Liu Bei of the fate of Ding Yuan and Dong Zhuo, Cao Cao had the dangerous captive hanged. However, some say that Cao Cao had Lü Bu strangled, a death punishment given to women, to show that Lü Bu was a coward who pleaded for his life.

Lü Bu in "Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

"Romance of the Three Kingdoms", a historical novel by Luo Guanzhong, was a romanticization of the events that occurred before and during the Three Kingdoms era in ancient China. It painted Lü Bu as an unbeatable warrior in duels but an incapable leader of armies, being further marred with character flaws. While staying true to history in the general course of events, Luo Guanzhong exaggerated or sentimentalised many stories about Lü Bu, drawing inspirations from folklore and traditional operas. These stories include:

Defection to Dong Zhuo

Lü Bu first appeared in Chapter 3 as the adopted son of Ding Yuan, who opposed Dong Zhuo's plan to depose the emperor. Dong Zhuo intended to kill Ding Yuan but feared the strength of Lü Bu. Li Su, a general under Dong Zhuo and a fellow villager of Lü Bu, then volunteered to persuade the formidable warrior to defect.

Bringing along a famous steed named the Red Hare, a thousand taels of gold, dozens of pearls and a jade belt, Li Su came to see Lü Bu, who was encamped outside the city. It did not take much persuasion to convince Lü Bu to betray his master, as he felt continued service under Ding Yuan was a dead end. That very night, Lü Bu carried a sword into the tent of Ding Yuan, who was reading under the candlelight. Ding Yuan questioned him as to why he was holding the sword. Quickly sensing that Lü Bu had switched sides, Ding Yuan tried to escape but was unsuccessful.

With a stroke of his sword Lü Bu cut down his master and father's head, which he brought to Dong Zhuo the next morning. Lü Bu then took Dong Zhuo as his new adoptive father, who was overjoyed and showered his newly adopted son with more gifts. The presence of Lü Bu at his side deterred future assassins.

Battle with three heroes at Hulao Pass

Since he placed the puppet Emperor Xian in the throne, Dong Zhuo's tyrannical and cruel ways had angered many warlords around the country. The warlords formed a coalition under Yuan Shao in 190 and came for Dong Zhuo in the capital Luoyang to vanquish him.

However, they were stopped at Hulao Pass, 50 "li" from Luoyang. Riding forth on his Red Hare, his halberd in hand, dressed in the finest silver armor and wearing a twin pheasent-tail headpiece, Lü Bu taunted for challengers to duel him. Every warrior who came within range of his halberd were either maimed horribly or met a swift, bloody death. Amid the chaotic screams of panic and death, Lü Bu heard a loud, bass voice call him a "bastard slave with three last names". Wielding his Eight-Zhang Serpent Spear, Zhang Fei shouted the insult at Lü Bu to get his attention and galloped out to fight him.

Zhang Fei was said to have wielded the strength of a hundred men in battle, but he struggled against Lü Bu for more than fifty bouts,either side unable to gain an advantage. Then Guan Yu, brandishing his Green Dragon Crescent Blade, dashed out to assist his brother. The three fighters were engaged in another thirty bouts, but still Lü Bu held his ground. Then Liu Bei, holding up his Dual Swords, also joined the battle.

Like a merry-go-round, the three brothers galloped in a circle caging Lü Bu inside, who finally began to tire. Whenever Lü Bu tried to attack one, the other two would ride in and attack his exposed flanks forcing him back on the defensive, and soon he became exhausted. Unable to face the combined efforts of his three opponents at once, Lü Bu then made a feign at Liu Bei, whose martial ability he determined was the least of the three, and retreated through the resulting gap back to the pass gate. The Trio chased after Lü Bu but due to the speed of Red Hare, his horse, they could not keep up with him. However they abandoned the chase after they spotted Dong Zhuo and then pursued him unsuccessfully.

laying of Dong Zhuo

After Dong Zhuo moved the capital to the more strategically sound Chang'an, Minister of Interior Wang Yun started to contemplate a plot to assassinate the tyrant by using Diaochan, a song girl who was brought up in his household but whom he treated like his own daughter, to plant the seed of dissension between Dong Zhuo and Lü Bu.

Inviting Lü Bu over one night, Wang Yun asked Diaochan to serve wine to the guest. Lü Bu was immediately seized by the girl's beauty. Well aware of this, Wang Yun then promised to marry Diaochan to the mighty warrior.

A few days later, however, Wang Yun laid a feast for Dong Zhuo and repeated the feat. Like Lü Bu, Dong Zhuo could not lift his eyes off Diaochan, who also displayed her prowess in song and dance. Dong Zhuo then brought Diaochan home and made her his concubine.

When Lü Bu heard about this the next morning, he headed for Dong Zhuo's bedroom and peeped in through the window. There he saw Diaochan sitting up grooming her hair while Dong Zhuo was still asleep. Seeing Lü Bu's reflection in the pond near the window, Diaochan then put up a sorrowful expression and pretended to wipe tears off her eyes with a handkerchief.

When Dong Zhuo fell sick a month later, Lü Bu took the chance to see Diaochan on the pretext of asking after Dong Zhuo's health, but this time Dong Zhuo woke up in time to see Lü Bu staring fixedly at Diaochan. Lü Bu was then shoved out and forbidden to enter the inner chambers henceforth.

Then one day, while Dong Zhuo was holding a conversation with Emperor Xian, Lü Bu stole to his adoptive father's residence and met with Diaochan in the Fengyi Pavilion (凤仪亭). Weeping, Diao Chan pled with Lü Bu to rescue her from Dong Zhuo vowing to drown herself in the pond rather than spend another minute with the fat tyrant. Taken in by Diaochan's act, Lü Bu placed his halberd aside and held Diaochan in his arms while comforting her with promises to for her rescue.

Back at the palace, Dong Zhuo realised that Lü Bu had slipped away. Returning to his residence, he found the Red Hare horse outside and realised that Lü Bu had gone against his orders and reentered the inner chambers. In a huff, Dong Zhuo entered his residence to find the duo in the pavilion. The startled Lü Bu turned to flee, forgetting to retrieve his halberd in the process. Dong Zhuo grabbed the halberd and gave chase. Being too obese, Dong Zhuo could not catch up with the agile Lü Bu. He then hurled the halberd at Lü Bu but the latter fended it off and got away.

After the incident, Lü Bu was becoming increasingly (and understandably) displeased with Dong Zhuo. This displeasure was further enticed by Wang Yun, who suggested subtly that Lü Bu take Dong Zhuo's life. Lü Bu attempted (weakly) to argue for Dong Zhuo's paternal relationship to himself, but Wang Yun dismissed it, saying, "His surname is Dong and yours is Lü. Where were the paternal feelings when he threw that halberd at you?" Upon this, Lü Bu made up his mind to kill Dong Zhuo.

The conspirators then sent Li Su to fetch Dong Zhuo from his castle in the county of Mei under the pretense that the emperor intended to abdicate the throne to the warlord. Despite several ill omens, the overjoyed Dong Zhuo came to the palace gate, where his troops were barred from entering. As Dong Zhuo's carriage neared the palace building, soldiers loyal to Wang Yun surrounded the carriage and stabbed Dong Zhuo with spears.

Dong was however injured only in the arms due to the breastplate he had taken the caution to wear that day. He then cried out for Lü Bu. Unfortunately for Dong Zhuo, he was impaled in the throat by Lü Bu's halberd like a wild pig, while Lü Bu proclaimed, "I have a royal decree to slay the rebel!" It was said that Lü Bu not only skewered his stepfather, but also his carriage as well, with the bloody tip of his halberd sticking out the back. Not content with this slaughter, Lu Bu called for the death of Li Ru as well.

Lü Bu's downfall

In 198, Cao Cao and Liu Bei formed a short-term alliance and laid siege on Lü Bu in Xiapi. The siege dragged on for two months without significant gains. Two advisors to Cao Cao, Xun Yu and Guo Jia, then suggested flooding the city with water from the Yi River (沂水) and Si River (泗水).

As the water level rose and submerged the city gates, Lü Bu's subjects rushed to inform their leader, but Lü Bu dismissed the threat on account that his Red Hare could run as well in water as on land. Thereupon he returned to his wine cups and consorts. However, heavy indulgence in alcohol and women had wasted his strength away such that one day Lü Bu looked into the mirror and found himself looking thin and pallid. Making the resolution to quit drinking, Lü Bu then passed an order for all within the city to keep off wine.

One day, Hou Cheng, an officer under Lü Bu, caught a defector who attempted to steal fifty horses and give it to the enemy. Hou Cheng then prepared barrels of wine to celebrate with his colleagues. Fearing wrath of Lü Bu, he then had five bottles sent to his superior to appease the latter, which turned out to a terrible mistake. Seeing the bottles of wine, Lü Bu was enraged at the opposition to his alcoholic ban, and had Hou Cheng thrashed sixty times as punishment.

The unhappy Hou Cheng then plotted with two colleagues, Song Xian and Wei Xu, to betray Lü Bu to the enemy. Under the cover of the night Hou Cheng stole Lü Bu's Red Hare and galloped out of the only gate not submerged in water towards Cao Cao's camp.

The next morning, Cao Cao's troops launched a fierce attack on the city. Lü Bu had to personally take part in the defense of the walls. The battle dragged into high noon and the attackers backed off for a rest. The exhausted Lü Bu then slept on top of the wall.

Taking the opportunity, Song Xian and Wei Xu tied Lü Bu up and hoisted a white flag. The two also threw Lü Bu's halberd down the wall as proof. Seeing the signals, Cao Cao's troops then poured into the city and seized it in no time.

After he had been captured he was taken in front of Cao Cao. Lü Bu attempted to appease Cao Cao, claiming that together, they would conquer China and the world beyond easily. Cao Cao, who had a penchant for recruiting powerful officers, was nearly swayed. To reinforce his point, Lü Bu then tried to get Liu Bei to plea for him. Liu Bei, however, had seen through him, and said to Cao Cao, "Don't you remember what happened to Ding Yuan and Dong Zhuo?" The warlord remembered Lü Bu's reputation, and being suspicious by nature, had him strangled and then beheaded as a precaution. The last words Lü Bu ever said were threats directed at Liu Bei, claiming that he would be waiting to settle the score in hell.

In other media

Because of his reputation as an unmatched and highly skilled warrior in the Three Kingdoms saga, Lü Bu is often held in high regard in works based on the Three Kingdoms, sometimes even in works not based on the Three Kingdoms. These include video games, where he is often given the highest War/Attack stats, and in anime and manga. Some examples for these are listed below.

*Lü Bu is a character in the Koei video game series "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", usually as one of the icon characters.

*Lü Bu is a character in the popular game series "Dynasty Warriors" where he is the strongest character. He is most often portrayed wearing the pheasant-tailed headpiece he wore, as in his traditional image. In "Dynasty Warriors 6" he dresses in black armor, wielding twin double ended halberds. In most of the games in the series, attempting to fight him alone and/or below a certain character level is dangerous and futile.

*In "Warriors Orochi", Lu Bu serves Orochi as one of his top officers. In this crossover series between "Dynasty Warriors" and "Samurai Warriors", Lu Bu finally found a worthy challenger to fight him, Honda Tadakatsu, who leads an independent force against Orochi, and is constantly looking for an excuse to duel him. In the sequel game, he still served Orochi, but eventually went on to betray him and formed up his own force, temporarily allying with Wu.

*In Capcom's "Destiny of an Emperor" for the "NES" Lü Bu appears as a character with the highest attack stat. In the game, the player is capable of recruiting him into Liu Bei's party albeit only temporarily.

*Lü Bu is one of the fighters in the Neo Geo's "World Heroes 2 Jet", although his name is instead "Ryofu," the Japanese pronunciation of his name.

*The character Ryofu Housen (Japanese pronunciation of Lü Bu Fengxian), in the anime short series "Ikki Tousen", is also roughly based on Lü Bu.

*In the manga and OVA anime "Ryofuko-chan" [http://www.starchild.co.jp/special/ryofuko/] , Lü Bu is reincarnated as the elementary school student Ryofuko.


*cite book|author=Chen Shou|title=San Guo Zhi|publisher=Yue Lu Shu She|year=2002|id=ISBN 7-80665-198-5
*cite book|author=Luo Guanzhong|title=San Guo Yan Yi|publisher=Yue Lu Shu She|year=1986|id=ISBN 7-80520-013-0
*cite book|author=Lo Kuan-chung; tr. C.H. Brewitt-Taylor|title=Romance of the Three Kingdoms|publisher=Tuttle Publishing|year=2002|id=ISBN 0-8048-3467-9

ee also

*Three Kingdoms
*Personages of the Three Kingdoms
*Records of Three Kingdoms
*"Romance of the Three Kingdoms"

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